Exodus 40 ends this book and it ends with a powerful lesson on how we should live. A lot of the chapter has been about the creation of the pieces for the tabernacle. Now the day comes when it is time to put all the pieces together and put things in place. Moses is told by God “you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting”. Can you imagine that? For weeks and months they have been creating – now it is time to take it and assemble things. Moses doesn’t hesitate and begins to put things together in the order God directs.
Part of the process is to get the priests ready to serve there as well. “Bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water….anoint him and consecrate him….put coats on them….their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations”. Aaron and his sons are the first priests to serve, but that service is dependent upon being anointed by Moses. Lots of details in the assembly process of the pieces and people. That is where the secret to success comes.
Scripture is clear about one thing. “This Moses did; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did”. There was no interpretation of what God meant. Moses did what God said the way God said when God said. Period. In case you wonder what obedience really looks like – this chapter shows it in spades. Over and over we read these words – in fact after every task or set of tasks it appears on the pages of scripture – “as the Lord had commanded Moses”. It wasn’t Moses’ way. It was God’s way. Totally, completely, down to the very detail. That is what obedience looks like. We don’t think and figure it out – we listen and act just as God tells us. Too often we want to put our own spin on things. That is not obedience. Obedience means that God says it and we just do it. Moses shows us how over and over and it is a key reason God uses Him so effectively. There is no questioning or interpretation – just doing what God directs.
The result? “Moses finished the work”. The pieces and parts came together and there was a tabernacle and Tent of Meeting. Priests were in place. But the rest of the story is the key: “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle”. God showed up. He was pleased and filled the place. Can you imagine the joy? God comes and inhabits that which they have created and obediently built for Him. It is a critical part of their journey going forward. “Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys”. Do you listen to God’s direction for your journey? He has one, and wants to provide it to you. We just need to look and listen and then move or stay based on what He says!
Exodus 39 has the final pieces of the Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting being assembled. Lots of details, but those things mattered, and the workers did it “as the Lord had commanded”. There was no free lancing going on here. They had specific and detailed instructions and they kept them to the letter. They did it God’s way. Think how life would go if we lived it God’s way. Not when we felt like it or knew it was best. But all the time – in every moment and instant – when we are tempted to just do what we want – we checked in with God and chose to do it His way. Can my imaging the impact it would have in our life if we only obeyed? These workers did just that. They followed His direction!
Finally the work was done. “Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses; so they did”. There is a word in this verse that jumps off the page – ALL. Do you realize just how unique that is? Scripture tells us that they did every little thing God’s way. Not with variety and uniqueness – they did what God said. Down to the very last detail. They were working for the Lord and created it “Holy to the Lord”. This wasn’t a show of talent and skills by individuals. This was God’s plan executed down to the minute detail.
They bring all the pieces to Moses as they have finished the task. There are lots of pieces – large and small – the Ark, Tent, utensils, hangings, down to the underwear for the priests. There was nothing overlooked or ignored. As they come to Moses, he “saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the Lord had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them”. Moses doesn’t bask in the success of the project. He blessed the people who got it done. He led by commending those who had made it happen. Moses looked and then praised the workers. What a lesson in leadership. Too often leaders want to take credit for completing the task. Moses could have done that. He could have just announced that he had led the team to finish the work and now it was time to move on. But he doesn’t – he thanks them and gives them credit while making sure everyone knew that they did what God asked. Great leadership lesson here!
Exodus 38 has more work being done on the tabernacle and key elements to be used for worship. Bezalel continues to create – this chapter focused on the altar of burnt offering and a number of items for the tent and courtyard. While he used gold for the Ark of the Covenant, now he is using bronze and silver as he creates other items. So much detail and so many accurate and specific instructions are followed. But God anointed the right guy for the job and he just makes it happen.
His counterpart Oholiab is “an engraver and designer and embroiderer”. He has a different skill set that God has
anointed. Together they make a team that is able to lead the entire project. They follow God’s instructions carefully and closely and contine to build the pieces that will enable the Tent of Meeting and all that was included in the design to travel with them as they continue their journey to the Promised Land. The two of them didn’t partially fulfill God’s instructions. They didn’t go most of the way. Scripture says they “made all that the Lord commanded Moses”. That is what obedience looks like. God’s plan, God’s design, God’s time, God’s way. We need to learn from these two who served our Lord very well.
So why do all these details matter? “These are the records of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were recorded at the commandment of Moses, the responsibility of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest”. It would be easy to skip past them and just move on to something that seems more relevant to life today wouldn’t it? That would be a mistake. The details show us that God is not just a big picture God. He cares about the details in your life and mine. He has a plan down to the very small and seemingly unimportant things – not because they don’t matter – but because they do. Life happens in the small stuff. We shouldn’t worry about all of it – but we need to realize that God has that covered too.
He doesn’t just throw things into the wind to see how they fall. He has a very specific plan for your life and every detail that happens in it. That should comfort us and help us understand just how much God loves us. There is no chance in life. There are many choices and we determine much by the free will God has granted us – but He has a very specific design and plan for you and me. At the time of this writing as the Tent of Meeting was being constructed scripture says there were 603,550 men. God knew every one of them. There are over 6 billion of us today on this planet. Guess what? God knows each and every one of us too. And He has a specific plan for each and every living and breathing life. We need to cling to that and live as we are – one of His that is loved much!
Exodus 37 has Bezalel creating the Ark of the Covenant. This was the place where the Ten Commandments were kept. It is a fairly large item – 2.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits by 1.5 cubits. Remember that a cubit was the first standard unit of measurement. It had a number of different variations over time but it is somewhere around 20 inches give or take. That makes the Ark around 4 foot wide by 2.5 feet deep and across front to back. It was a pretty big piece.
The Ark was significant in many ways – not only in holding God’s Word – but also as a part of worship. It was always carried with the people as they moved and was placed in the Tabernacle each time they stopped. Bezalel carefully followed God’s instructions on how to build it. There were no efforts spared – it was constructed and covered with “pure gold inside and out”. And to make it easy to carry, there were rings created and attached to the four corners so the acacia wood poles could be inserted to use for carrying the Ark.
Bezalel also created some of the other items God had told Moses to have made- the lampstand and altar of incense. This guy had some talent – he worked with wood and gold and then becomes a perfumer as he blends the holy anointing oil and the fragrant incense as well. God always provides the resources to what He asks us to do. And Bezalel is given a very broad set of skills and talents to create some of the most important items for the Tabernacle. The Ark will be carried with the people during their entire journey through the wilderness for 40 years. It becomes something that wars are fought over and it is captured many times throughout history.
God had a plan and Moses had it executed the way God instructed. That is a key aspect to leadership. He got direction and then found the right folks to accomplish the task at hand. God provided the talents to accomplish what He had asked to be done. It is great to watch a plan come together. God always has one. We just need to seek Him, understand what He is up to, join Him in that, and then watch Him provide. Too often we want it our way. That won’t typically work out quite as well……
Exodus 36 has the skilled workers doing their thing under the direction of Bezalel and Oholiab who were chosen to lead the charge. Moses calls all the workers together. These were not just guys looking for something to do. Moses called “everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work”. When God moves in us – our heart gets stirred to love and good deeds. God orchestrated what He originated in His commandment to Moses – to build the Tent of Meeting and all that went with it. And He stirred up hearts to respond to the call for workers.
The rest of the folks were stirred up as well. Moses had asked for contributions to allow the building to happen. People brought their donations. “They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning”. Giving is core to our walk with God. It is part of His design – His economy if you will. He ordained it from the beginning and it is the very character and nature of God. He has instilled it into His people as well. The world tells us to hang on tightly to all that we have. God’s answer is that we are to give what we have away – to give freely and trust Him for provision. It is not the way of the world – but it is God’s way and is to be the way of God’s people. For God so loved the world that He gave……
We do see a rather unusual problem though for Moses. They have too much stuff coming in. “The people bring much more than enough” is what the workers come to tell Moses. Now that is a situation most churches don’t face. The reality is that it should be normal because we cannot possibly out give God. When we are giving His way – there should never be a shortage and should always be plenty. But we often fall short in trusting Him and giving what He would lead us to do. So churches don’t have to do what Moses does as “the people were restrained from bringing”. He had to shut them off and tell them to bring no more.
Can you imagine that coming from the pulpit on Sunday morning. Please stop giving so much – we can’t use all that you are donating to the cause. That would raise some eyebrows. Unfortunately we would probably just expand the budget and spend the money without God’s direction. But in Moses case – the people were on God’s plan living God’s way. God’s economy was working as designed. It can do the same for us if we get lined up with Him!
Exodus 35 has life resuming again. Moses is down from the mountain for the second time with the Ten Commandments and highlights a couple things for the people. He begins with “these are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do”. Realize that this was not a list of ten suggestions from God. In fact – these things carried some serious penalties. The first thing Moses tells the people is that they can work for six days but on the seventh, the Sabbath, they will rest and have a day holy to the Lord. The penalty for “whoever does any work” was death. That is serious business. This commandment is a definite focal point for God. He wants us to rest and spend time with Him.
Then Moses starts to meddle as he tells the people to bring a contribution to the Lord. In other words – it was time to give. “Let him bring….come and make” – Moses has a general ask of all the people. They were to bring something to be used or to give their skills to be part of making the things needed for worship. Moses shares a long list of things that are needed – lots of items to be used and then a long list of things that God has instructed be created and built for worship. The people were there and heard Moses plea.
“And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution…..who were of a willing heart”. God moved in their hearts and stirred them to bring things or offer their skills. Giving means that we are listening to God’s direction. He has a plan for us to be involved in His work. We just need to have our spiritual ears on. “All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord”. What is God telling you to bring? He wants us all to be moved and involved. He is speaking into our lives. Giving is the core of who God is and what He does.
God also enables people to do His work. In this case, He called Bezalel and Oholiab and “with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship”. What God originates, God orchestrates. He will provide the skill and leadership necessary and these two were filled with the Spirit of God to lead this building and creative process. God didn’t just give them enough to slide by. “He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work….by any sort of workman or skilled designer”. Talk about being equipped. God gave them more than enough. Plus scripture says “he has inspired him to teach”. It wasn’t enough to have two skilled workmen. This was a huge project so these guys had to build into others. God gave them the skill and the desire to grow the workforce. There is a big task ahead. But the people were moved to give, and God equipped the leaders of the workplace. God always has a plan!
Exodus 34 is about the rewriting of the Ten Commandments. Moses had broken the stone they were written on the first time he came down from the mountain because of his frustration with the people. Now God summons Moses to come again and get the commandments. “I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets” God says. So Moses “rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai…..the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there”. No hesitation – just obedience. Moses understands who he is talking with. God reminds Moses of just who he is dealing with – and we need to pay attention because we have the same God that he did.
“The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation”. Did you catch this? God loves us – He will forgive us – but we do not get free passes for sin if we don’t deal with it. Sinners are guilty until they are forgiven. And God won’t just turn a blind eye to sin. He can’t. And if we don’t deal with sin it has a very long tail – to the third and fourth generation. Does sin matter? Yes – for generations. But it also can be forgiven and we can be set free from that long tail if we will only confess and receive forgiveness. Jesus went to the cross to earn our forgiveness. We just need to seek it and make it our own through a relationship with Him. Of course, the even better course is to walk in obedience. That won’t completely cover things because we are all sinners at the root of our hearts, but it can certainly reduce the battle over sin.
God makes a covenant with Moses and the people. Covenants last forever. We need to keep that in mind as many of us have a covenant in our lives around our marriages. But check out what God promises here: “it is an awesome thing that I will do with you”. Walking with God in covenant is an awesome thing. It doesn’t get much better. God warns Moses not to allow those they will conquer to pull them off course. He warns them to keep the law and not live in disobedience. He highlights again a few of the commandments, with special note being made around idols, sacrifice and the Sabbath. God tells us to rest on the Sabbath – no matter what – “in plowing time and in harvest you shall rest”. Too busy for rest – that is not God’s plan.
Moses went up to get ten commandments inscribed on the stone tablets. “He was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments”. Was God that slow? No – Moses was that excited to be there with God. He was worshipping and in God’s presence. He had a firsthand experience with God. When Moses came down after 40 days, he “did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God”. Can anyone tell when you have been with God? Do you spend time in His presence before His throne? The people were afraid because of his appearance but “Moses talked with them”. He shared what God had said and gave direction for their lives. We have the same – God’s Word – and we need to read it and heed it!
Exodus 33 is sort of a restart to things after the people got off track while Moses was up on the mountain with God. They took their eye off the ball and went down the rat hole of idol worship – but now Moses is in the mode of rebuilding the relationship and setting a new course for the future. God is not happy with things. The people have turned their back and sinned. Sin always has a resulting issue – it breaks the relationship with God. But God remembers the promise He made to Abraham and is not going back on His word. “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people”.
This is a big change in plans. Up to this point God has been there – in the pillar of cloud or fire – every step of the way. Now He is pulling away a bit – telling Moses He isn’t along for the journey like He has been to this point. Lesson here – when we disobey it is a problem in our relationship with God. Sin does matter. It is a big issue. And we often take it far too lightly. There are results to the choices we make. “When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments”. This is actually a good response – the people were not hardened to the sin they had committed and wanted to make things right with God. They understood how much they need Him. We sometimes don’t respond the same way. We just go on like nothing happened. Bad response. It does matter.
Moses certainly gets it. He comes to God and says “if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight”. More intercession happening here. Moses knows having God there is not a luxury – it is necessary. In fact, Moses says “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here”. He isn’t going on without God. Moses has been the messenger and leader but he has his head on right. He knows it is all God and not him. That is something we all need to remember. When we tend to get a bit confident in our ability to lead and do – we need to stop and realize that without God we can do NOTHING.
So God says yes. “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name”. God agrees to continue to lead. He makes it clear that Moses cannot see His face. But He is willing to continue to go with the people as Moses leads. Moses asks for one thing from God: “show me your glory”. Moses again wants a sign from God – he wants to see Him. Great reminder that all things need to lead to God’s glory – never our own. When we are in the spotlight we need to give God the glory as He alone deserves it. He alone makes things happen. He alone is worthy to be praised!
Exodus 32 is a sad chapter that captures the story of just how pathetic we can be as humans. Moses is up on the mountain with God, and while he is gone, the people get restless. They come to Aaron and ask him to “make us gods….do not know what has become of him”. They are impatient and want action. Aaron goes along with the plan and asks them to give their gold and he creates a golden calf and built an altar before it. So they are now worshiping this idol and sacrificing to it. This happens not all that long after they are brought out of Egypt, led through the Red Sea, have a cloud leading them by day and a fire by night. How can they possibly forget that God is there?
Of course God knows what is happening. He tells Moses “your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them”. I love how this goes – ‘your people’. It is no longer ‘my people’ – Moses this is your problem. And the problem – disobedience. Hmmm – that is likely one we may be called out on too. God tells Moses “they have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them”. This is a very big deal. When we disobey God, it is not just a simple little problem. It creates a division between us and Him. There is a problem God says it this way: “They are a stiff-necked people….wrath may burn hot against them”. Bad things happen when we are disobedient to God. There is a price for disobedience.
“But Moses implored the Lord….Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people…. Remember”. Here we see a quality of a leader that is so important. Moses practices the power of intercession. He stands between God and the people and asks for mercy and grace. And he does it on God’s terms as he asks Him to remember. God often used that word with the people – now Moses uses it with God. And it works as God does send Moses down the mountain to address the issue. When Moses arrives he can’t believe his eyes. “Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it”. Moses can’t believe His eyes. The people have lost it completely and his brother had led the charge.
Moses gets all over Aaron and asks why this has happened. And as you might expect, Aaron doesn’t take responsibility, he blames the people. “You know the people, that they are set on evil….they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf”. The old ‘they made me do it’ excuse. We are so quick to blame others rather than take responsibility for our choices and actions. The outcome is not pretty. Moses calls the people and asks who is ‘all in’ for God. The priests respond and Moses instructs them to kill off those who are not – “three thousand men of the people fell”. Big consequences come to those who do not walk in obedience. Moses says “You have sinned a great sin….perhaps I can make atonement for your sin”. There is always a cost for sin. So Moses goes and intercedes on their behalf again. He puts himself between the people and God in an even more bold way. “But now, if you will forgive their sin – but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written”. God again listens to Moses plea and sends him off to lead with “now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you” It is not without punishment – God cannot be mocked – so He tells Moses “I will visit their sin upon them…. the Lord sent a plague”. But they were not wiped out as God might have done. Moses stood in the gap – he put himself in their place – and sought God’s mercy. Intercession is a powerful thing for leaders to learn.
Exodus 30 continues God’s instructions on what needs to be built or created for worship in the Tent of Meeting. The chapter begins with the building of the altar – to be made of acacia wood – and covered with pure gold. It is to be carried along with all the other things as the people move. This altar is to be used primarily for burning incense for God – and we learn later in the chapter that Aaron and his sons are to blend together certain items and make this composition to be used solely for worshiping God.
The use of the altar was clear from God: “Every morning….he shall burn it….at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord”. The altar was to be used daily – morning and evening – as a place to burn incense and worship the Lord. How regular are you in your worship. Is that reserved for an hour on Sunday morning? That really is not the relationship God desires to have with us. Our walk with Him needs to be daily – and not just for a little slice of time we give him as quiet time or some other designation. God wants to be in relationship with us – to be central to our lives every day all day. Is He for you today?
One of the tasks defined here is to collect the ‘temple tax’ if you will – money to support the priests and the Tent of Meeting. It was part of the census process where every person over age 20 was to be counted. “Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel….the Lord’s offering”. Unlike our approach today though – it was a very specific amount for each person. No one was allowed to give more nor were they allowed to give less – each was to contribute the exact same amount as prescribed by God. “The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less”. It was one amount and it has a significant reason: “when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives”. And it has a very targeted use per God’s instruction: “You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives”.
So we see here that supporting the work of God’s chosen was not optional. It was required for each individual. The balance of the chapter refers to the instructions on how to create the sacred anointing oil and incense that is to be used as part of the worship experience. God again shows that He is interested in details and gives very specific direction on how to blend things together to His specifications. Being a priest and doing it God’s way is not a trivial matter. As He gives instruction around the bronze wash basin – He says this: “They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die”. God expected them to do it His way and that way alone. Not mere suggestions – do it God’s way or die. Oh that we would understand that even today God is not in the suggestion business. His Word is not a mere option – it contains His commandments. We need to be obedient, just like Aaron and his sons were, if we want to have a life that lines up and is blessed by God. Will you die if you disobey His Word? That is not the question. The real question is why don’t we do what God has instructed us so we are walking in His steps as He desires. He is our Lord. He is God. We must obey!